Tuesday, September 22, 2020

In youth lies the economic ‘muscle’ Thailand needs

Aug 20. 2018
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Re: “Sustaining 5% growth a challenge, say economists”, Business, August 13, and “Fund to focus on ‘very poor’ students”, National, August 9.

Here are sharp contrasts between a good economic outlook and a bad income-gap, but if the latter is fixed, it could turn out to be the muscle needed for the country’s future growth, not a burden.

The economists at the Krungthep Turakij roundtable discussion agreed that economic growth this year be between 4.2 and 4.7 per cent, in line with estimates by the National Economic and Social Development Board. They said 5 per cent growth this year is possible if exports and investments expand more than expected.

However, Somprawin Manprasert of the Bank of Ayudhya gave an interesting comment, saying 5-per-cent growth was less important than long-term growth, so the main focus should on “building muscle” for future growth. What does “building muscle” mean? It should mean human resources. So the question is how to create the muscle for sustained future growth.

In reality, people could help economic growth if they produce goods and services. If they’re more productive, they’re more beneficial.

But I was stunned to learn that more than 600,000 Thai students characterised as “very poor” had just Bt42.7 in their pockets most days. This is what they had to spend on a nutritious breakfast, two other meals and other daily requisites. Another one million students were classed as “poor”. 

A study last year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed that poor students with the potential to achieve high scores at the international level (called resilient students) made up 3.3 per cent of all students. If this group could be fully supported both economically and socially, it could grow in number into tens of thousands.

Lowering the student income-gap by providing support to develop their potential would make their muscles stronger and give them a chance at future growth. At the least, it could help reduce their risks as they enter the unskilled labour market.

Sutipunt Bongsununt

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